COLUMN: New Westminster strip club will one day move along

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Coquitlam teacher Ken Ipe has done his students a real service.

As many know, his Social Justice 12 classes have taken it to the streets to get New West’s Paramount Gentlemen’s Club shut down. The students have a petition calling on City Hall to pull the strip club’s licence, and were at Sixth and Sixth over the weekend to spread the word.

The students are getting first-hand experience in what’s involved in raising an important issue—and also in taking the flack this often involves.

As their argument goes, the Paramount is a real-life manifestation of one of society’s ills: the objectification of women.

Is objectification dangerous? Does it feed things like violence against women, bolster a multi-billion dollar diet industry, and does it lead to a media culture that inundates women with images and expecations that are grossly unrealistic and undermine their self esteem?

Well, we could talk about that for a while, couldn’t we?

If you’ve visited the eating disorders clinic at BC Children’s Hospital and seen the (overwhelmingly) pre-teen and teenage girls who are there because they are literally dying, with their organs starting to shut down, it’s enough to make one wonder if the push for the “perfect body” can’t have something to do with it.

But as the supporters of the Paramount say, there are a lot of better targets for people who’d like to change the world.

At New West’s one and only strip joint on any given night there will be about a dozen scantily clad women circulating the room offering a striptease lap dance on one of the sofas. As those who have come to the Paramount’s defence say, these are decent-paying jobs and the women are there by choice. By shutting down the club the students are taking away the dancers’ power and freedom to choose what they’ll do with their bodies and time.

The city, meanwhile, says there’s nothing they can do—even if they wanted to shut the place down. They’re not the morality police, and can only shut a business like this if it keeps the police busy most nights, creates so much noise the neighbours are constantly complaining, or if it is somehow flouting the business licence rules.

And by all accounts the Paramount’s not causing any trouble. City Hall and the New West police say it’s a model business. No problems whatsoever.

Not all strip joints are the same, though. My guess is some have gangs involved, and that in some the women are treated like cattle. Objectified, if you will.

The Paramount’s days are numbered, though. It may not be soon, but one day there won’t be any strip joint on Columbia and the Fantasy Factory sex shop on Royal Avenue at Stewardson Way will similarly be shuttered.

A few years ago the city re-vamped its zoning to create a specific zone (P-8) that allows adult entertainment, pawn shops, and massage parlours.

And there’s only one property zoned for these uses today: the city’s public works yard. Hmm.

The city’s Downtown Community Plan, revised in 2010, describes the aim to create a “Downtown that is family friendly.” The city’s liquor seats have been cut in half in recent years, there’s a new elementary being built Downtown, there’s already a new park. Businesses like Mugs and Jugs at the old College Place Hotel have been gently ushered along. The Paramount Gentlemen’s Club will one day follow.

Meantime it’s worth noting the gorgeous appearance of that historic theatre’s marquee.

Now that’s something worth objectifying.

• Chris Bryan is editor of the NewsLeader.

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